The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877

Open Yale


Important information

  • Course
  • Online
  • When:

This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.

Important information

Where and when

Starts Location

What you'll learn on the course

Civil War
Civil American War
Northern World View
Expansion and Slavery
Fugitive Slaves

Course programme

Lecture 1 Introductions: Why Does the Civil War Era Have a Hold on American Historical Imagination?

Lecture 2 Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region

Lecture 3 A Southern World View: The Old South and Proslavery Ideology 

Lecture 4 A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition Movement

Lecture 5 Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality

Lecture 6 Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850

Lecture 7 "A Hell of a Storm": The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854-55

Lecture 8 Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855-58

Lecture 9 John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?

Lecture 10 The Election of 1860 and the Secession Crisis

Lecture 11 Slavery and State Rights, Economies and Ways of Life: What Caused the Civil War?

Lecture 12 "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies

Lecture 13 Terrible Swift Sword: The Period of Confederate Ascendency, 1861-1862

Lecture 14 Never Call Retreat: Military and Political Turning Points in 1863

Lecture 15 Lincoln, Leadership, and Race: Emancipation as Policy

Lecture 16 Days of Jubilee: The Meanings of Emancipation and Total War

Lecture 17 Homefronts and Battlefronts: "Hard War" and the Social Impact of the Civil War

Lecture 18 "War So Terrible": Why the Union Won and the Confederacy Lost at Home and Abroad

Lecture 19 To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings

Lecture 20 Wartime Reconstruction: Imagining the Aftermath and a Second American Republic

Lecture 21 Andrew Johnson and the Radicals: A Contest over the Meaning of Reconstruction

Lecture 22 Constitutional Crisis and Impeachment of a President

Lecture 23 Black Reconstruction in the South: The Freedpeople and the Economics of Land and Labor
Lecture 24 Retreat from Reconstruction: The Grant Era and Paths to "Southern Redemption"

Lecture 25 The "End" of Reconstruction: Disputed Election of 1876, and the "Compromise of 1877"

Lecture 26 Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Lecture 27 Legacies of the Civil WarExamFinal Exam